“Microfinance is a powerful tool for development,” says Chamroeun Microfinance Plc CEO Yannick Milev as it brings social and occupational mobility to marginalised communities.
Yannick and his 230-strong team has fashioned Chamroeun’s business model into a highly productive and sustainable concept that promotes a self-reliant rural economy.
It is more than doling out money to cash-strapped people - shifting away from the traditional financing method.
The microfinance institution is improving livelihoods by providing skills and adapted financial services to poor families so they can confidently eke out a sustainable living.
In other words, Chamroeun provides a steady lifeline for micro-entrepreneurs, male or female, by assisting them to build their own enterprises to earn a decent income.
A gamut of subjects - entrepreneurship, financial literacy, marketing, agriculture and business development are part of its regular training agenda.
“All our projects are designed and developed to address issues that low income family faces, essentially improving their livelihoods or improving their basic quality of life.
“Entry barriers [for borrowers] are low so families can access it [loans] and at the same time, we also supplement with other support services like training, financial literacy, skills, and on social issues like diarrhoea and nutrition.
“So addressing the whole integrated aspect of poverty drivers.
“For many families just a loan is not enough, in itself has inherent risks and we try to address that holistically,” said Yannick.
Started in 2006, Chamroeun’s primary focus was to tackle urban poverty but it slowly proliferated into rural provinces, where there was a pressing demand for financing, especially from communities who were cut off from the formal financing system.
Chamroeun developed different models to help its borrowers or “partners” as Yannick describes them, such as the “Credit Plus” department, offering both non financial services and loans adapted to assisting disabled people, students from technical schools or generally those who face challenges in obtaining loans as they may be perceived as high risk customers.
At the same time, Chamrouen has also introduced loans that are impacting quality of lives, example “WASH Loans” which refers to water, sanitation and hygiene - another social product that allows customers to procure water filters, water pumps and sanitation materials, and loans to address issues of vulnerable housing, making them more resilient to weather hazards.
“It is an ecosystem of different things. We are really committed to that balance of impact and making sure we have a responsible return on our services we sell.
“The idea is to provide an integrated package to our clients or partners and to help them solve the issues they face,” he added.
Chamroeun has about 31,000 borrowers in 14 provinces compared to 26,000 borrowers registered last year, which is a slight jump.
“Initially we were urban focused but that has shifted gradually.
“So now we are sixty per cent in rural areas and the balance 40 per cent in urban. We will maintain our presence in urban areas and will continue delving further into rural areas,” he said.
Chamroeun believes it is important to support rural economic development through targetted and strategic products and services.
Much of the investments in infrastructure and business have benefitted the urban areas, and for smallholder farmers and the groups they work with, options for adapted financing are often limited.